The foundation of cooking is anchored in knowing a few basic things - roasting, braising, frying, etc. - and several basic cutting techniques. Today I thought I’d zero in on one of those knife techniques, the julienne cut. You’ve seen julienne-cut vegetables plenty of times. It’s the ones that are essentially thinly-cut strips that look a lot like matchsticks.
The beauty of the julienne cut is the uniformity of each piece (which allows each piece to cook up evenly) and also quite frankly in the beauty of the shape in the dish you use it in. We usually use this cut on firm veggies like carrots, potatoes, or celery. It can be used to cut meat or fish also (most often only when you are making a stir-fry). You might also hear it referred to as an “allumette” cut as well.
A little interesting side-note...the julienne cut has been around a long, long time. In fact the first known use of the term actually dates all the way back to the 1720s.
How do you cut your veggies into those cool matchsticks? It’s actually quite simple. Think "slice-n-stack". Here are the steps:
Step 1: Peel the veggie
Step 2: Trim the top and the bottom. (By the way, this is called "topping" and "tailing".)
Step 3: Cut the veggie into 2-3 inch pieces.
Step 4: Taking one piece at a time, trim the rounded edges down on each side creating a rectangular block. Basically, you are giving yourself four flat surfaces.
Step 5: Cut each rectangle into several 1/8 inch slices.
Step 6: Stack several slices together and cut them lengthwise into sticks.
Now you should have the julienned or the matchsticks you want!
Oh, and here's another little secret. If you cut horizontally across your julienned pieces to form small 1/8-inch cubes, you have now mastered another fancy-sounding cut, the brunoise. :)
Not too hard at all is it? So go grab a carrot or a potato and give it a shot. Try to make your slices even. You'll love the results.
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